Erykah Badu Criticized Over Swaziland Performance

Erykah Badu

Erykah Badu Criticized Over Swaziland Performance

Singer catches flack after taking the stage at a birthday party for alleged African dictator King Mswati III.

Published May 1, 2014

"I was not paid by the KING. I had no idea of the political climate,” Erykah Badu tweeted in response to criticism she has received following a performance for King Mswati III of Swaziland last Thursday (April 24).

The U.S. Human Rights Foundation demanded "an explanation" as to why the Texas native sang "Happy Birthday" at a celebration for Mswati, who they consider a dictator

Badu was invited to Mswati's event as a last-minute replacement for another singer. Her friend, Jacob "The Jeweler" Arabo threw the party. "It was harmless," she said in an interview with the Dallas Morning News

The mother of three was in South Africa recording her sixth studio release and hopped on a one-hour helicopter flight to get to the performance. She left thereafter and stayed with a friend. "All the money that I got from the trip I gave to all the servants in the house," Badu told her hometown newspaper.

Mswati has a reputation for flaunting an opulent lifestyle, while more than half of Swaziland lives on less than $1.50 a day. He has said that the people of Swaziland do not want a change. He lands at the bottom of the list of the world's top 15 richest kings with a net worth of $200 million. In 2004 Mswati was targeted in an article for allegedly using millions in government funds to build new palaces for 11 of his now 15 wives, and to redecorate three of his main palaces. Swaziland's prime minister denied the allegations in the report.  

Badu's appearance was not a political endorsement of Mswati's regime. According to more tweets, her performance was a feel-good "moment" where she and everyone else in the room were "smiling."

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(Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images) 

Written by Latifah Muhammad


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